School system seizes money

$500,000 for books, supplies reclaimed from its campuses

Budget shortfall blamed

Schools were given $7.6 million to spend on classroom items

February 12, 2002|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

About $500,000 that Anne Arundel schools planned on using for instructional supplies and textbooks this year has been taken back by the school district as part of broad cost-cutting measures.

The money will go toward covering a $9 million budget deficit this fiscal year. The money had been allotted to department heads in every school to pay for such things as books, paper and laboratory supplies.

"It is essential money," said Buddy Green, science chairman at Northeast High School in Pasadena. "Without it, the kids are relegated to do pencil-and-paper-type things. In science, we need the money for the materials to carry out labs and investigations."

Green was alerted to the expected cut by the school's principal, who advised department heads in the fall to spend their discretionary money by January, he said. So Green had little left in his account when it was reclaimed last week.

Usually, the textbook and supply money is not taken back until May 1, when the school system is preparing to close out the fiscal year. Most schools spend the money well before then.

The $500,000 taken back was all that was left of the $7.6 million budgeted for books and supplies this year.

This is the earliest the textbook and supply accounts have been reclaimed in at least five years, officials said.

"We took some money back, and that primarily wiped them out," said Gregory Nourse, associate superintendent for business and management services. Last year, he said, the money was reclaimed in April.

Nourse and other officials stressed that the cuts last week will not affect the quality of instruction and that principals who feel they really need something can appeal to the central office.

`We'll cover it'

"If indeed there is a need out there, we'll cover it," said Assistant Superintendent Nancy Mann.

But teachers and students will have to do without all sorts of odds and ends for the rest of this school year. Chesapeake High School in Pasadena, for instance, lost $18,000 last week, and photography students will feel the pinch.

"In some situations we'll ask kids, if they take four pictures, to only develop two of them," said Principal Harry Calender, noting the high cost of the paper on which film is developed.

Calender said he might have to ask the school's student government to pitch in some money.

At Corkran Middle School in Glen Burnie, social studies Chairwoman Anne Yakaitis said she lost about $800 in textbook and supply money. She was about to order a set of globes to help students with geography lessons. Some teachers had requested updated maps of Europe and Africa. All of that is on hold.

"I won't be able to go ahead and get those things unless I can find money somewhere else, and that's tough," Yakaitis said.

Cost-cutting measures

The county schools aren't alone in being targeted for cost-cutting. At school system headquarters in Annapolis, administrators submitted a cost-reduction proposal for every department yesterday.

Also, travel for professional development that would require a substitute teacher or has not been approved by the superintendent has been canceled. And the school system is continuing the hiring freeze for noninstructional personnel that began last year.

Interim Superintendent Kenneth P. Lawson will outline the cuts to the school board next week.

One other school system in the Baltimore area is cutting textbook and supply money. Last month, the Carroll County system took back 30 percent of what was left in each school's discretionary budget to help cover a $1 million shortfall this year.

In Anne Arundel, some principals and teachers said they had spent most of their money for the year. And they expected essentials to be covered by the school system.

"If we ran out of toilet paper, they'd get it for us," joked Mary Grande, principal of Ferndale Elementary.

Nourse, the associate superintendent, said Grande needn't worry: Toilet paper comes from a separate account.

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